If you could zoom in, you’d see me, Michelle, and Breanne, sitting on the floor of the Marriott Center, second row back, as we listened to the opening session. About this time Doug texted me to say he forgot to pack Eliza’s lunch and was wondering where the girls’ money was (the money they made selling lemonade) because he didn’t have any cash to run over to the school. I had to laugh. Pilfering from the girls. And poor Eliza. I forgot her lunch the day before.
BYU Women’s Conference was a tremendous experience, an honor to participate. The theme came from the 100th section of the Doctrine and Covenants (an additional book we consider part of our canon of scripture).
And these are the beautiful ladies I spoke with. Breanne Meline on the left, Michelle Logan in the middle. Aren’t they radiant? At some point, I’d like to share with you some of their thoughts. They have been mothering much longer than I have. They are wise, down to earth, devoted and happy. One of the greatest blessings of this experience was getting to know them.
Breanne is a mother of 7 (!) and lives here in Utah. Her oldest just received an LDS mission call to Philadelphia. Her youngest is 4. It was Breanne who carried us along the last few months. She didn’t doubt for one minute that the three of us could pull this off, despite our busy families. She trusted completely that the Lord would aid us, and He did. I appreciated her optimism so much.
Michelle is a mother of 6 children, ranging from ages 1 – 14. She lives in California, near Berkley. Michelle and I hung out together most the morning, talked about all sorts of parenting issues and joys. She is already managing the teenage years and in my opinion doing it so well, discussing hard issues, remaining open and accessible. She is brilliant, compassionate, and I loved being with her.
(We didn’t coordinate our outfits. Promise. But when I met Breanne at 6:45 am, I had to laugh. We looked so… matchy-matchy. And looking at this photo reminds me that I need help styling my hair. My sides are winging out. My curls aren’t curling. I think my hair is suffering from hormonal changes. How’s that for a shallow observation?)
Here are my parents and two of my sisters (Deb and Bec). Doug had already left to pick up our kids from various friends saints who were willing to babysit.
These are some of the wonderful women from my neighborhood who came to offer support. Wish I had a picture of them all. They filled the first two rows of the auditorium. And when I saw their faces, along with other friends and my family, my heart slowed right down and I began to breathe. I thought, These are my friends and family. I can talk to them. Suddenly the concert hall didn’t feel so big, I forgot about the balcony above me, and just focused on them.
It was humbling to have so many people I love and care about in the same room.
This snapshot shows a little more of Breanne’s personality. She spoke about the joy of raising children and isn’t it obvious, she would be a fun mom!
Despite the glitches we had with our tech run-thru in the early morning, the presentation came together. (Thanks to Brad, the stage manager who loaded all our media onto his personal laptop).
I enjoyed being there. I felt grateful. I learned some wonderful truths. And now I’m happy to have my head back in the mommy-game again, glad to think on new things, clean house, care for my kids.
Some of you requested a copy of my talk. So I’m posting it here, which I figure will be easier than sending out emails. And I’ve added a few extra pictures.
I’ve been thinking a lot about all you mothers, and the great work you are doing in your homes. You are amazing. And to those of you who came that day, thank you.
BYU Women’s Conference May 2013
Catherine K. Arveseth
my own rule. I’m putting myself in time-out.” She grabs hold of her own arm and marches herself out of the room, still talking. “Yep. No more parenting for me for one hour.” Her absence leaves the kids silent until one says, “For a mom she can be pretty creative.” Then the other replies, “Do I hear snoring?”
That night, after singing a couple songs, my little Gordon, age three, climbed out of bed with his blanket, walked over to me and slipped his arms around my neck. I leaned back and fit him into that perfect spot where baby heads nestle onto shoulders. I twirled his yellow curls, brushed my fingers across his forehead, and we stayed like that a long time, the two of us holding onto each other, needing each other. I wanted to burn that feeling into my skin, hold him forever.
Children have a wisdom about them. They seem to know what we need. They bring us back to ourselves.
The poet, Mary Oliver, wrote, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
so much waiting and wanting, there was only one way to consider our situation. It was a gift. A glorious, extravagant gift, and I was going to give my all to these five miracle-babies.
A friend of mine once described her gratitude for Jesus with these words,
and said, “Catherine, don’t worry about it. Think of a building going up. The scaffolding, the boards lying around, the workers, the dust. This is exactly how your house should look. You are building a family.”
But I love this photo of the Salt Lake temple that hangs in my parents’ home. It was taken in 1892, the day the capstone was laid. I find it telling, that even as the capstone was being put in place, scaffolding still wreathed the spires of the building.
the design, height, or color of our building. We cannot compare ourselves to anyone, or take counsel from those around us. We must look up and seek the Lord’s insight as to how we should build our own family.
individuals to receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means.”
Atonement and the Journey of Mortality, April Ensign 2012).
Despite my harsh reaction, she was offering me grace, merciful and pure. I hardly knew what to do with her tender, forgiving words.
In that moment I realized this is the kind of grace we want from God. But it is also the kind of grace our children want from us. Next to all the principles and parameters, our children need to feel the embrace of mercy, of love given liberally and without price.